Metadata in Digital Audio Files – What it is, where it is and how to tidy it up.
If you’re one of those people with a seemingly endless amount of digital files in your collection, it can be a mammoth task to organise them into some sort of cohesive order - but those with slobbish tendencies can relax - metadata is here to save the day.
Metadata makes it much easier to browse your music without investing hours of time alphabetising and folder creating in front of your computer screen.
What’s in the metadata?
Information that’s contained in the metadata of an audio file can include:
- Track title
- Album artwork
- Track number
And all other manner of other musical information. To put it simply, any way of identifying the content and finding your way around it needs to be in the metadata. It’s the same way you’d search for an artist or song within Spotify’s mass music library. Usually it’s embedded into the track when the file is created, but sometimes it can be left out. FLAC, AIFF and MP3 formats take full advantage of metadata whereas WAV files only allow a little metadata input, so not as helpful for browsing your library.
Why you want metadata
It’s important if you want to locate and play music around your home. Network players like our CXN use metadata to browse and play your music. If you’ve ever had a track come up as ‘Unknown’ or where the album artwork is missing on the screen of your network player, it’s because of the lack of metadata within the file. And when there’s no vinyl or CD in sight, seeing that album artwork on the screen is the next best thing.
Let’s say your music collection is all dumped into one hard drive in a random order. If you were to try and navigate these files by a certain album or artist on one of our network players with blank metadata fields it would be impossible. This is where UPnP browsing comes into play. UPnP (or Universal Plug and Play) network streamers like our CXN, 851N and and Stream Magic 6 rely heavily on the categorised metadata in your audio files. So if that same music collection is dumped into one hard drive in a random order but with all the metadata fields filled in, it’ll allow you to breeze through your collection by artist, genre song or by any other data you choose. You’ll need to make sure your files are available on a UPnP server which can either be on a NAS drive or through programmes such as Asset or Twonky on your computer (although Twonky sends album art at a lower resolution rate). If you’re not into the metadata method, some UPnP servers let you go ‘old school’ by allowing you to search by folder, although this is where your files will need to be named and organised. This might be easier if you know the layout of your folders on your device like the back of your hand.
And if your metadata is in a mess…
We’ll be honest with you, there isn’t exactly a quick way of doing it as there will be some form of manual input required. There are a number of programs you can use to track down missing metadata. We recommend looking at programs like Media Monkey, Audacity and JRiver which allow you to search their database for the correct info and simply drag and drop in the album artwork you’re missing. It might take a while, but you know what they say, tidy metadata, tidy mind…
Any tricks or tips you know for sorting out mangled metadata, please share!